I have been so busy living life here in Jackson that I haven’t had time to document it. I think this is a good sign. This morning I was writing an update to my three college roommates and decided that it summed up the month pretty well. I invite you to eavesdrop on our (slightly edited) email exchange:
My little sister‘s wedding. A-mazing. It was such a meaningful event that I can’t capture it perfectly in words. The wedding week was one of the most fantastic weeks of my life. I was happy to arrive in New Orleans a few days in advance to help Gill through the wedding prep craziness with much red wine, laughter, and girly movies (I heart Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants).
Gill’s college friends are the most hilarious, creative bunch of people that you will ever meet. The wedding and reception involved eating lots of New Orleans food and closing down the open bar, then putting on any hats and wigs we could find and going out to the French Quarter til the wee hours. Even the photographer said that it was one of the best weddings he’s ever been to. I have a not-so-secret hope that we (and my own close friends) will all build houses on a big plot of land together someday, or at least in the same neighborhood.
Reconnecting with the arts in Jackson. I’ve been looking forward to moving to Jackson for a quiet writing life, and a return to my creative interests that had fallen by the wayside over the years. Life goes at a much slower pace here than it is in the Bay Area, where everyone seems to rush around doing things bigger and better than the next person. There were so many events going on every day that I couldn’t choose and hardly went to any. Here there are normally one or two cool events going on per night that interest me, and I actually go.
Tonight, for example, I’m going to a monthly local art fair with live music, then going to see a gypsy music band. It’s possible to get involved in just about every type of art that interests me. If something doesn’t exist yet, I can start it easily. The other night, at a birthday party of Darren’s friend Laurel, the guests performed scenes from plays just for fun, did a few improv comedy games, and ended the night playing guitar and singing together. If I go to heaven, it will be just like that party. (Oh yes, there was also lots of food and red wine.)
Potential to make a big impact. Mississippi needs help in the worlds of nonprofit and education even more than California (and especially the Bay Area) does. I’ve written one article so far that highlights an exciting program in the Jackson Public Schools and hope to write more. I would also like to volunteer with kids, because I miss being around them.
Funnily enough, I also want to volunteer at an animal rescue shelter. I haven’t had much interest in animals before, since I didn’t grow up with pets, but I now find myself coveting my neighbor’s cat. Unfortunately, because Darren is allergic, we can’t get a cat or dog. I’ve heard that bunnies are more hypo-allergenic, but a lop-eared rabbit might not pass the Manly Pet test.
My man-friend. Darren and I had our first anniversary on Tuesday and took time to reflect on how much we have both grown in our year together, even though much of it was spent physically apart. He has mellowed me out with his confident, can-do attitude. When I’m anxious, he gives me a pep talk, makes me see how silly my worries are, or helping me make a plan of next actions. He says that I’ve inspired him to challenge himself creatively with design, take the freelancing leap, and adopt a do-it-yourself, healthy lifestyle. We’re lucky to have a creative synergy: I’ll suggest one thing; he’ll add to it; and voila — something magical emerges, like this photo we took on self-timer in honor of our Battle of the Sexes Housewarming Party. I feel grateful for him every day.
The writing life. I’m loving it. It’s been a challenging adjustment to freelancing, and I’ve spent a few full days on Facebook avoiding the effort involved in a career change and advancing Reschool Yourself simultaneously. But it feels right, and I’m incredibly lucky that the Jackson Free Press is here. It’s an alternative news weekly, and it’s an awesome paper. I can write as much as I want for them, on topics I care about: personal development/health, education, and fun stuff like top 10 lists (I contributed to the Valentine’s issue that comes out next week). It doesn’t pay a lot, but I’m seeing this work as an investment to build a portfolio and readership, and then start submitting to local and national magazines.
So far I love writing full time; I just need to find more structure in my day. Darren and I are enjoying spending so much time together while freelancing. We have separate work spaces but can have lunch together and do errands when we want, or take a break by lazing around for a while. If I can bring in enough income to sustain me, this will be my ideal life right now.
Self-care. I’m doing much, much better than when I was working overtime at Spark, and when I began the project in the fall. I was an anxious, stressed, workaholic mess for a while there, with short bursts of balance. Now I’m trying to sleep as much as I can (though I still wake up with my mind buzzing), I exercise nearly every day, cook most meals, watch more TV and movies, and laugh a lot. I get to be creative every day, which is one of the most important things to me above all.
I am still struggling with my anxiety, however, and I’m realizing that while it’s much better under these circumstances, it will continue to follow me unless I get to the root of it. To cope, I’m doing yoga, reading more on Zen and personal development, and researching whether therapy is financially feasible. For now, writing every day has been amazingly therapeutic, and Darren and I have a lot of catch phrases that make annoying things seem funny. But sometimes I feel anxious without knowing why, and it interferes with what I want to do that day and who I want to be.
So there you have it, my update to my ladyfriends. It feels good to be finding balance, and developing the confidence that I really can have my ideal lifestyle. I know that it will take some time to figure out what that is, and more time to achieve it. I know that I’ll have to step outside my comfort zone in the process. But going after the big dream anyway, even when it terrifies me, is what my spring reschooling is all about.
OMG, you totally sound like the woman who wrote This Time I Dance!, except without the annoying proclivity for rhyming. You sound like you’re over a hump, or on the other side of the fence, or something. I guess this just tells me that I need to do some more reflecting on where I want to change things in my life and what I want to encourage and how to make that a reality… thanks for the inspiration!
So much exciting stuff going on right now! I am happy that your new life in Jacktown is going so well, and I’m so grateful we’ll be around the area for the next month to enjoy it with you.
And Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is the best movie EVER. Brian still won’t watch it with me, but that’s what I have my girls for.
Glad I could provide a bit of inspiration! As you know, it’s been quite the challenging year, so it feels good to be confident that I’m heading in the right direction. It’s finally sinking in that ups and downs are normal, and things can always be different tomorrow. I’m learning to “relax into life,” as a friend put it.
I need to see Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in its entirety, because we kept getting interrupted by boys who weren’t quite as taken with it.
Writing the update to my friends reminded me that it’s a good idea to do a short assessment of your life every so often, broken down into categories. I do this in my journal every New Year, and it makes me feel as if all my ducks are in a row. I think I’ll start doing it quarterly, like a finance report for a corporation.
HA! Did I just see Melia use a financial metaphor for a self-growth tool? See, noting to be afraid of– it’s all in the formatting.
Both you and Gill claim to want to attain understanding of financial info, huh? There must have been something in the house you grew up in…
(by that I meant to say something like “there must be something in the water” but it came out weird- oops)
Haha, I’m sure there was something in the water that taught us all the lyrics to TLC’s “Shoop” but made us resistant to keeping a budget. We did take a financial planning class together, from a Chinese professor who reminded us of our grandpa, but dropped out before the final project was due.
Financial education is at the top of the reschooling list. If I can manage to detach myself emotionally from it, it will be a lot easier.